29 December 2010

THT: Why Do You Struggle WIth Your Sexuality?

I should probably clarify my "Choices for a Gay Mormon" post. I was talking about not feeling right about "test driving" a marriage relationship with a girl. I did not mean to say that we don't all "test drive" or try to make relationships work, whether gay or straight. What I meant was, I don't feel that, sexuality is something that should need to be test driven. Nevertheless, most of the gay population do test it. I did. I tried to date girls. I tried to make that work. But it didn't. So why should I believe that testing a marriage with a girl would be a good idea? Do heterosexuals feel the need to test their sexuality? Are they just not sure if they are going to like being with a girl before they actually start dating, etc? No. So why do we? Why do gays struggle so much with their sexuality?

I'd like to propose a possible answer and then offer a way for you to test it. I believe the answer is that we struggle, not because we are unsure, but because of the pressures of society. The pressures of religion and tradition that heterosexual relationships are the only valid ones. Maybe you agree, maybe you don't. But if you are struggling consider this:

Pretend we lived in another time... another world. In this world the issue of sexuality was not a moral question. It wasn't uncomfortable for anyone. Society has not established one relationship over another, religion hasn't tagged salvation to one relationship and damnation to another. There is no stigma. Family and friends wouldn't be at all offended or surprised by you having a same-sex partner. It didn't turn heads in public. People never reacted with disgust. You were completely free and comfortable choosing any partner no matter what the gender. In this world- would you seek a relationship with a guy or girl?

Perhaps that doesn't help you. But for me it eliminates one thing: The idea that I am unsure of my sexuality. If there is no confusion, I would argue that it isn't necessary and can even be dangerous to "test" your sexuality. If you still find yourself confused and unsure of which gender you would pursue, then perhaps you are bisexual and you may want to weigh the option of a heterosexual relationship more heavily since it is a possibility for you and it would make life a lot easier to live in today's social and religious environment.

Looking at it this way, we can see that the pressures that lead to confusion are not internal, but external. These external pressures are causing internal hell. When have we ever taught that we should let external pressure compromise who we are and what we feel? Do we consider the possibility that perhaps there isn't something wrong with us? That perhaps the wrong lies in the "traditions of our fathers" and in the prejudices and biases of society?

It was terrifying for me to admit to myself that I was gay. My world collapsed. It collapsed because I knew it was true and that in the world I live in it spelled ridicule, rejection, and hate. It was terrifying because I knew then that it wasn't a choice. I had been fighting it my whole life. Then, to realize I didn't have a choice but to face the possible rejection by family, friends, religion, and society, I crumbled. But now I realize... to hell what other people think. I am not going to live my life fighting against myself simply to receive the praise of others. The only opinion I care about is God's and any condemnation I have felt has never been from God... it has been from the words and attitudes of the people who profess to know him. Those attitudes and opinions led me away from God, not to him. They made me feel ashamed to pray to God or ask him for help. They made me feel like I was unworthy of his love. God would never want that. That is how I know that the shame and guilt I felt was not from him or his disapproval, it was from people. People who I respected and looked to for guidance and direction. Good people who were unintentionally misleading me because of their own biases and the prejudices that have become the tradition of our society.

What if the war you are waging on yourself right now is unnecessary?

28 December 2010

PE: Out For Christmas

As this year comes to a close, I can't help but smile. It has been a terrible, terrible year. A year I barely survived. But I made it... and now I am graduated, out, and ready to move forward with my life in complete honesty with myself and those around me. I am confident in my future and have finally learned to love myself. Just four months ago if you would have told me I would feel like this now, I would have laughed at you and then cried. I could not possibly see any happiness for me in my future.

Christmas this year was much more relaxing than years past. Last year we went to the Caribbean and, as much as I love seeing new places, trips like that take a lot of planning. Traveling isn't exactly relaxing. This year, we celebrated Christmas lite.  My family decided to get a dog this year as the "big gift" and so stress was low to go around shopping with the crowds trying to find gifts. I insisted that people not get me anything. Of course people did anyway, but it was so much less stress to not worry about gifts so much, or busy plans.

My boyfriend spent a couple days with me and came bowling, that's right, BOWLING with my family, my uncle and 2 cousins, and my sister's boyfriend for Christmas Eve. I know- classy. But we had a lot of fun. It was a relaxing, no-stress way to just enjoy each others company. It is also just nice to be completely comfortable with who I am with the people I love. My family is not ashamed of me and I am not ashamed of myself. What a great Christmas!

THT: Plan of Action for Gay Mormons

I came across this well-written call to action by Clay Essig and wanted to share the gist of his article. He basically pleas with the gay Mormon community to join together in determination to seek to be granted new revelation on our plight. He recognizes that we are all in different places. Some of us have chosen celibacy. Others, a heterosexual lifestyle. Others, a homosexual lifestyle. But all of us can do things to seek positive changes.

We can serve people to the extent we can. If we cannot do it in the church (due to excommunication or simply because it is still too hard to go to church), let us seek to uplift the poor and needy, visit the sick and afflicted, do good in our communities, and be the first to serve our neighbors. If you have chosen celibacy or are otherwise worthy to attend the temple, visit it frequently.

We can still seek the Lord in our lives. Read the scriptures. Ponder their meaning. Be a light and example to those around us. If we are in a place where we can be at church, let us serve faithfully. If we are unable to hold callings, we can still be the first to welcome others who may otherwise feel marginalized within our community of saints. We can still share the gospel of Christ.

We don't need to harden our hearts. We can't be perfect. No one can. But don't let that discourage us to doing the things that we can do. We don't need to turn away from the gospel and reject everything just because there is one thing we don't agree with or understand. We can still pray and fast for further revelation, to open the minds and hearts of people.

Let us shine forth and be a blessing to others. Show people that our lives are capable of great goodness. That our fruits are good and our spirits strong. And as we do so, come out to family, friends, and church leaders with wisdom. Help them to see that being gay isn't inherently evil just as being straight isn't inherently good. Help them see that we also see the danger in promiscuity, drugs, abuse, etc, and that we seek loving, monogamous relationships in which we can raise a healthy family.

I encourage you to read the article. The writer's words are encouraging and empowering. You can feel the spirit behind them. Rather than arguing between ourselves over which course of action is the "right" course of action for the gay Mormon, let us unite and move forward in our search for more enlightenment and understanding regarding this issue.

THT: "The New Mormon Gay"

So in the book I am reading, "Conservative Christian Identity and Same-Sex Orientation: The Case of Gay Mormons," there is a whole section on "The New Mormon Gay." I didn't know I fell into a class of Gay Mormons until now. Let me tell you a bit about this small class of people.

These people choose to accept their sexuality and be actively (to the extent that they can) LDS. According to the book, "most are urbanites and better educated than there married and celibate counterparts." They seek to urge change in the church when it comes to the way homosexuals are viewed and treated. Their reasoning is that "most Mormons, even those who are highly religious, do not believe everything the church teaches," and that the stance on homosexuality is one of those issues.

This class of gay Mormons are in a difficult position. They are often "marginalized because they are stuck between two incompatible communities." They don't agree 100% with everything the gay movement does or says and they don't agree 100% with what the church says or does with regard to homosexuality. The gay community thinks that they are crazy, ignorant, and backward for wanting to be involved with the church and the Mormon community thinks they are deviant sinners unworthy to share their company or fellowship. So they seek respect and acceptance among Mormons as homosexuals and seek respect and acceptance among the gay community for being Mormon.

This is a pretty accurate description of me. The change that I would like to see if for gay members of the church to have a healthy, spiritual support base withing the church to help them make the best choices they can living as a gay individual. Instead of turning our backs and casting them out of our congregations leaving them to find company in bars and clubs, welcome them in, give them examples of healthy gay relationships. Healthy dating. Eventually healthy marriage. If gays have chosen to live in line with their sexuality, would it not be better to help them apply the gospel in their lives the best they can? Would it not be better to encourage committed monogamous relationships that are built upon faith in Christ? I think so. And I hope that one day I can be be that kind of example.

27 December 2010

THT: Gays in the Media

I've thought a lot about how gay people are represented in the media. Until recently, gay people were  pretty much used for entertainment value. They are funny. We can laugh at them. Laugh with them. We all love gay people when they are entertaining us on television, but present a gay drama and you can count most people out. Think of all the sitcoms and shows that involve a gay character. I think it is much like blacks were somewhat respected as entertainers, but not much more than that before the civil rights movement. It was okay for them to preform jazz, but not share a bathroom.

But today, the popular television show Glee presents a gay character who is played by a gay guy who deals with dramatic issues. Granted Kirt is still an entertaining character who sings and makes us happy, but he also struggles with real-life issues. Brokeback Mountain was also groundbreaking film. It is a drama, not a comedy. It presents the raw, real-life struggles of two men in love. I think there is still a long way to go.

"Happily-ever-after" is still defined by boy-meets-girl. The "American Dream" is still the wife and kids, a house with a white-picket fence, and a SUV. Our music, our fairy-tales, our movies, the majority of media still leave boy meets boy or girl meets girl outside of "happily ever after." Obviously we can't expect this alternate happily-ever-after to become as prominent as the traditional ideology, but I do hope that more quality media will be made so that gay kids don't grow up feeling as though there can be no happiness for them.

26 December 2010

THT: Choices for a Gay Mormon

Being an oxymoron, the choices for a Gay Mormon aren't really a decision between "good, better, and best." The choices presented to people like me are really a decision between bad, worse, and worst. It wouldn't have to be this way if I was only one and not the other, but I cannot deny that I am gay or Mormon anymore than I can deny that I exist. So here are the choices I have:

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Live a Heterosexual Life in the Church

The Church used to prescribe marriage to a woman to guys like me as a cure for their gayness. Now however, Church policy is to not recommend marriage to homosexual individuals. Why? Because it didn't work. What happened instead is that men got married in good faith that their leaders told them the truth and that their homosexuality would go away, but then it didn't. Some became disillusioned with the church and even with God because this promise wasn't fulfilled. Some ended up leading double lives, one to maintain their good, happily married, heterosexual Mormon facade while meeting up with random guys in the night (just look at craigslist in Utah if you don't believe it... better yet, don't)... this is option #3 below. Others, upon realizing that their orientation was not changing, have made the difficult decision to divorce and lead a life true to themselves.

I am not about to enter a relationship with a woman when I know that it is almost guaranteed to not work out. I am not prepared to go for a "test drive" to see if I can do it. How selfish is that? I hold other human beings in higher regard than that, especially ones that I love. I am not about to ruin another person's life because I am trying to see if I can become the mold that society and religion wants me to be. On the other hand, doing that would allow me to participate in the church, hold callings, and be esteemed by the Mormon community.

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Live a Celibate Life in the Church

Be alone my whole life. Just wait for death to bring me company. This is not the same as not having the opportunity to marry. I am perfectly able to find someone I love and be with them for life. But even if I find the person I love most in this world, I am to never enter into a romantic relationship with him. I would never know what it is like to have to find a way to make a long-term relationship work. I would never get the opportunity to be the person someone depends on when they have a bad day at work or loose their mother or father. I would never know what it is like to raise a family.

But I would be worthy according to the church. Worthy on paper. Not worthy in practice. Single members of the church don't really get called to all the positions a married member does, so their capacity to serve in callings is still limited.  Members will always ask if you are dating anyone, try to set you up, wonder why that boy isn't married. Plus you are taught in Church that marriage is required to reach the highest level of heaven and that having children and raising them is the "greatest gift" God could ever give a person... to entrust you with his children- what a blessing.


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Live a Gay Life in Secret in the Church

This might work for some people... but not for me. Actually I don't think it would work for most people. The guilt would be too much. Pretending to be someone you are not isn't fun and it definitely isn't in line with what the church wants of you... though it may be more comfortable for everyone if you lived this way. Many would rather only see the facade and pretend it is real. But to sit in church and pretend that you are being true to your covenants and truthful with your leaders is a quick way to spiritual death. Once the church finds out about this double life, you'd be excommunicated.

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Live a Gay Life Open to the Church

In this case, I would go to my bishop, tell him that I am gay and that I do not plan on living alone, nor do I plan on trying to be heterosexual and be totally open with him and ward members. This way I am true to myself and to the church. I can embrace my orientation without shame. The problem then is, I will be called to a disciplinary court where it will be determined that I should be excommunicated. I will have less opportunity in the church than a non-member. I would not be able to say prayers in meetings, give talks, serve in any capacity, etc, etc. I will basically be cut off from the church I have devoted so much of my time and resources to.  And while I am welcome to attend, I wouldn't be surprised that I would be mostly ignored and avoided.


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So what would you choose? Does it sound like a choice between good, better, and best? Many would say, "well just give up Mormonism- why bother!" That is a lot more difficult to do than to say. Perhaps even impossible. Remember the phrase "people can leave the church, but they can't leave it alone?" Why is that? Because being Mormon means so much more than having your name recorded on the membership records. It is a culture, a way of life, a way of thinking, a lifestyle, a tradition. I cannot take the Mormon out of me any more than I can take the Gay out of me. So am I consigned to unhappiness? Is there just no good option for me? Maybe not. We don't all get dealt the best cards in life, but we do all get to choose which hand to play. I can't play the full house most Mormons can. The wife, the kids, the level of involvement in church, the acceptance and praise from community. Those cards weren't dealt to me. But in playing the hand I can choose with the best attitude I am able to manage, the best way I know how, I feel that I can get just as much satisfaction from life.

You may not like it. My bishop might not like it. My friends and family might not like it. But I am determined to live a happy life on my terms with a clear conscious before God and everyone else. I will not go back to crying out to God and asking him to make me someone I am not. I will not bury the person I am. I will not pretend to be someone I am not.

In case you are wondering which option I choose, it is the last one. I will be posting my first video by Jan. 1st. I will be choosing a ward to attend and talking to the bishop. I will go through the required processes as outlined by the church handbook. And I will be telling you all about it.

23 December 2010

THT: I Am Not a Deviant

I am reading a book right now on Mormonism and Homosexuality. I guess I've taken that challenge by BYU to be a "lifetime learner," but I'm sure that BYU wouldn't approve that the subject of my continued study is on this topic. The book is entitled, "Conservative Christian identity & same-sex orientation: the case of gay Mormons." I read a lot on this topic. It isn't so that I can somehow find away to "justify" myself because I am already quite comfortable with who I am and feel no need to justify it to myself. I do, however, feel the need to do what I can to clear up misunderstanding and add to the conversation so that I might help others who are and will be going through the awful place where they engaged in a full out war with themselves between their identity and their faith. For this reason, I find it important to find out what has already been said about the issue. Sadly, this blog is far more accessible to people who might benefit from material on this matter than books are. The ones who might benefit most would be too embarrassed to buy a book with such a title, and wouldn't be caught dead reading such a thing. But a blog... well, you can access it from the privacy of your own computer and can even delete it from your browsing history.

Anyway, point is, I like to read, learn, listen and then report on what I have found. At the beginning of the book it stars talking about the label "deviant." Homosexuality was, and still is, considered "deviant" behavior. Who labels it as such? The book calls them "Moral Entrepreneurs." This power to extend the label of "deviant" belongs to powerful people and interest groups who make rules and brand those who break them as deviants in order to further their political aims, protect their power, extend their influence, and enhance their prestige. These Moral Entrepreneurs are kept in business by their vested interests and values.

Now, there is a problem with this labeling system. Just because someone believes that something ought to be a certain way doesn't mean that it is. The other problem is the way individuals react to being labeled as a deviant. According to studies by sociologists, at first, they resist the label. But, "despite their efforts to resist it, they often find that because their opportunities in society are restricted by those who equate them with their label, they are forced into stereotypical behavior." An example that is given of this is the child labeled as "delinquent." The parents of other kids forbid their children from playing with the labeled child and he is forced to associate with the kids given the same label which perpetuates the stereotype of such a child. Think about the things that come to mind when you think about the "gay lifestyle," (a phrase I hate). In time, "individuals bearing the stigmatized label" begin to "incorporate elements of the label into their personality" and they begin to see themselves in terms of the label. This is why some people make radical changes int heir lives after coming out. Since orientation is such an integral part of the person, the status as a deviant becomes the loudest description of who they are. The label through which most people see them and through which they begin to see themselves.

I am not a deviant. Just because I am not what many people feel that I should be doesn't mean that what I am is wrong. Just because my life isn't the one you envisioned for me doesn't mean it is bad. I will not accept that label and will not see myself through those glasses. At least I will try. It is much harder than you can imagine. Let me explain.

After I came out, I started to make a lot of new friends. These friends were primarily gay. Why? Because the only people I felt comfortable with being myself around were other gay people who wouldn't judge me or be disgusted with my orientation. Around them, I don't have to hide any part of who I am. So who do I spend most my time with now? Other gay guys. It doesn't have to be this way. If society didn't label me as a deviant, if the church didn't label me as unnatural, I could feel comfortable among anyone. This is one of the biggest reasons I feel the need to "come out" to my extended family and friends and even to the church. When I feel as though I need to hide a part of me around them, I start to isolate myself from them. I will not be isolated from my family and friends. I will not be isolated from my faith. I will not accept a label that requires me to reinvent my life and make drastic changes to they way I live it.

22 December 2010

ARG: Elder Oaks & Elder Wickman on SGA - Part 7

PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Is therapy of any kind a legitimate course of action if we’re talking about controlling behavior? If a young man says, “Look, I really want these feelings to go away… I would do anything for these feelings to go away,” is it legitimate to look at clinical therapy of some sort that would address those issues?

ELDER WICKMAN: Well, it may be appropriate for that person to seek therapy. Certainly the Church doesn’t counsel against that kind of therapy. But from the standpoint of a parent counseling a person, or a Church leader counseling a person, or a person looking at his or her same-gender attraction from the standpoint of ‘What can I do about it here that’s in keeping with gospel teachings?’ the clinical side of it is not what matters most. What matters most is recognition that ‘I have my own will. I have my own agency. I have the power within myself to control what I do.’

Now, that’s not to say it’s not appropriate for somebody with that affliction to seek appropriate clinical help to examine whether in his or her case there’s something that can be done about it. This is an issue that those in psychiatry, in the psychology professions have debated. Case studies I believe have shown that in some cases there has been progress made in helping someone to change that orientation; in other cases not. From the Church’s standpoint, from our standpoint of concern for people, that’s not where we place our principal focus. It’s on these other matters.

ELDER OAKS: Amen to that. Let me just add one more thought. The Church rarely takes a position on which treatment techniques are appropriate, for medical doctors or for psychiatrists or psychologists and so on.

The second point is that there are abusive practices that have been used in connection with various mental attitudes or feelings. Over-medication in respect to depression is an example that comes to mind. The aversive therapies that have been used in connection with same-sex attraction have contained some serious abuses that have been recognized over time within the professions. While we have no position about what the medical doctors do (except in very, very rare cases — abortion would be such an example), we are conscious that there are abuses and we don’t accept responsibility for those abuses. Even though they are addressed at helping people we would like to see helped, we can’t endorse every kind of technique that’s been used.

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ME: The clinical side matters a lot. It is because of studies and science that the church has changed its position so much on homosexuality over the last 20 years. Back in Galileo's time the church taught that the earth was the center of the universe. The church (and I don't mean the LDS church) attacked him and demonized him for his "hearsay" when he claimed to know that the sun, not the earth was the center. If they didn't demonize this man, the believers would begin to question the church since the stance they took was on this geocentric universe. But that didn't change the impact of Galileo's findings. It may have slowed it. But today, we all know and recognize that the sun is the center of our solar system and nothing that any prophet or church would say would make us believe otherwise.

Elder Wickman is trying to take away the significance of science and intellect so that we don't pay attention to the findings. He says, don't look at that stuff, it isn't important. The important thing is that we have our own will. It's true. We have our own will. We can believe that the earth is the center of this solar system if we want to- it is within our power. But does it make it any more right? What I would like to see is the reasons why gay people are wrong. What is this idea being based off of? What teachings of Christ? To me THAT is the most important question.

As far as Elder Oaks' comments go, well I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the church will take no responsibility for abusive therapies even though they did endorse them in the past. At BYU, they used to give gay students a choice between being kicked out or doing shock therapy. These students wanted more than anything to change, so they often agreed to the therapy. This reportedly happened on campus even as late as the 1990s. They would connect electrodes to places on their body (including their genitals) and show them erotic images of men. When they got aroused, they would shock them. Then they would show them erotic images of women and soothe them with music or other calming treatments. Some of these men have burn scars on their bodies from this treatment. Some of them committed suicide after realizing it wasn't working, that they weren't able to change. The church is very careful to make sure that BYU doesn't do anything that the church doesn't endorse. How is it then, that Elder Oaks can say that they refuse to take responsibility for abusive therapies. These therapies were advised by church leaders. They were required of gay individuals if they wished to stay a part of the community of "saints." It is true that the church no longer endorses this type of therapy, but come on. Take some responsibility for the past for once.

Sorry that this response of mine was more heated and attacking than others. But I have heard accounts and seen the scars of individuals who have gone through that therapy at BYU and it is really hard not to get angry. It is infuriating to me that our leaders would have us turn a blind eye on the scientific studies and findings and then refuse to take responsibility for being wrong in the past and for the harm they have inflicted due to their ignorance, biases, and prejudice.

See these links for more info:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aversion_therapy#In_homosexuality
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_and_The_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter-day_Saints#BYU

21 December 2010

ARG: The Family- A Proclaimation to the World (Part 1)

And so begins my commentary on The Family: A Proclamation to the World. Why do I want to discuss this? Because it is often used to denounce homosexuality. If people are going to use it against me, I want to know the validity of their argument. Before I begin, I want to say I love my family. I think families are so important. They really are the most important unit on the face of the earth in my opinion. I am very close to my family and even much of my extended family and never plan on distancing myself from them. There are a lot of truths in this document.

The first thing I want to talk about is the nature of this proclamation. Many members consider it scripture or revelation. This, however, is not the case. The most recent evidence of this can be found in the changes made to Elder Packer's recent controversial talk in General Conference. I am not going to go into that talk, enough has already been said about it, but there is one sentence that is very important in putting forth this point. Speaking of the proclamation mentioned above, Packer's original talk read:
"It qualifies according to the definition as a revelation and would do well that members of the church to read and follow it."
After the changes, that same sentence now reads:
"It is a guide that members of the Church would do well to read and to follow."
Not such a minor change is it? Downgraded from revelation to guide. Well, you don't need that talk to prove that it isn't scripture, it is built into the doctrine of the church. As outlined in the Doctrine and Covenants, a decision does not become established doctrine or scripture in the LDS Church until submitted to the "common consent" of church members. This hasn't happened.

So while the proclamation can be a helpful guide and good advice, it is not a blanket statement that can be draped around everyone. While no one should be judging another person anyway, they definitely shouldn't be judging someone using a statement as scripture when even the leaders who wrote it clearly teach that it is not scripture.

So. Before we go on this journey into the document, let's be clear that this is not a revelation, nor is it scripture. So we shouldn't be giving it that kind of weight.

PE: The Holidays

It's been longer than I typically like to go without writing, but I'm still here. This last week was pretty stressful. It was the last week of school. And if studying for finals isn't hard enough, a certain someone came to visit that same week. My boyfriend and I have been in a long-distance relationship. He goes to school out-of-state. He was finished with school and was excited to see our friends and have some holiday fun. When work, finals, Christmas parties, and boyfriends are all mixed up and shoved into one week, stress isn't far behind. I never understood why people thought the holidays were stressful until this year.

I am officially done with school however, which is a huge relief. Now I just need to wait for my graduation to post. Once that happens... all this anonymity will no longer be an issue. I plan on "coming out" to the blog world on 1-11-11. Until then, I will need to maintain my somewhat shallow attempts at keeping my identity secret.

I think the Holidays are difficult in general for many gay individuals. Those that are in the closet have to pretend that they are the spitting image of the son or daughter their parents had in mind. Those that are out to their families but have been rejected have no family to spend the holidays with. Those whose families know, but don't want to hear about it make it impossible for their gay son or daughter to feel like their loved ones want anything to do with their lives. Many parents feel like simply pretending it doesn't exist will make it go away. In reality though, it just makes their gay son or daughter feel less and less "at home."

I am so lucky to have a family that accepts me and who makes certain that I am a part of their lives. I am so blessed to have a family who doesn't discount things in my life that I feel are important, but who give weight to the things I care about. I really hope that more families will welcome their children home with open arms in the coming years.

15 December 2010

PE: My Story Part 9- My Family's Reaction

The initial email responses I received from my immediate family were filled with love. My mother and sister assured me that this new information doesn't change a thing. I was still the same son/sibling they loved and they were not angry or disgusted or any negative adjective I might have guessed. If they were angry or disappointed at all, it was only in themselves. Looking back they could see how things that were said might have hurt me and that thought killed them. They were so apologetic. My mom just wanted to protect me from all the negativity and hate that the world dishes out to gay people, just like you would expect a mom to want to do for her children.

I think, in some ways, my mom felt like she failed. Not in the sense that her failure caused my homosexuality, like many parents do. But that somehow, it was her fault that a part of me believed that she would reject me. The part of me that felt the necessity to keep this from her. I think she felt that she failed at showing me how much she loved me and how unconditional that was. She didn't fail. It was my own failure in understanding and accepting that love. When you hate yourself, it is hard to imagine another person loving you.

The thought that I was so close to ending my life was horrifying to everyone. I think part of the pain for them was knowing that I was feeling so horrible that I would plan to take such an action. I don't know if the reaction would have been different if my news wasn't based on the fact that I had been so close to suicide. I would like to think that they would have still been just as accepting. I think it is so sad that parents or families refuse to listen until their son or daughter succeeds in, or attempts ending their life. If you haven't already, watch the Lifetime movie Prayers for Bobby. It's $3.99 I think on iTunes. It is based on a true story of a gay kid growing up in a very conservative Christian home. His mother never had any measure of sympathy or understanding until he took his life.

My Dad also responded with love and made sure that I understood that I was expected to continue to be involved in his and the rest of my family's lives. He said some things that I disagree with, but assured me that he wouldn't judge me from that day forward. My dad tries to identify a reason for everything. In his mind, there had to be a reason I "turned" gay. He thought about the idea that maybe he wasn't involved in my life as much as he could have been. About the idea that perhaps this had something to do with his failure as a father. I assured him that this had nothing to do with his parenting. It is hard to believe that for so many years, even professionals blamed the parents for the homosexuality of a child. I think a lot of the effects of that thinking are still very prevalent today. Anyway, my Dad has his own theories why I might be gay, none of which I agree with. In his mind, this was something that was done to me in some way that altered my "natural" state. But it doesn't change his love for me and I have never felt judgment from him. That is all I could hope for.

My family started reading No More Goodbyes the same night I told them. My mom finished it in a week and sent me a text message one evening after she finished it. This is what it said:
"I finished the book. It was good. It addressed the fear, anger, each of our internal wars, and was hopeful. I loved it and will probably start reading it again. It has a profound message for everyone and insight into our eternal purpose in our life here on earth… this will be a growing time for us and I am not adverse to that. It will make us stronger, but oh how I wish I could protect you from the storm of hurt and betrayal you must feel from religion and people around you. I mean this. If you meet some person gay or not that does not have a family to support them, bring them here. I would like to be their family. No one should have to endure rejection on that level. I'm serious."
After receiving that text message, I was ready to go home. I drove to my apartment, packed my bags, threw them in the car, and drove through the night to go home. I took a nap in my car at some rest stop along the way (and I lived to tell the tale). I didn't want to think about facing them. I was still so worried about what that would be like. So I just drove. When I got there, I sat in my car for a few minutes before slowly making my way to the door. I still felt ashamed to face them in person.

Once I got in the door, however, that was quickly washed away. My dad was the first person I saw and he greeted me with a hug. No awkwardness at all. We had a normal day just hanging out. That night, we had the first discussion about all this in person. For the most part (besides some friendly disagreement with some opinions my father expressed) it was the same amazing love and support I felt from my family's letters.

My Mom had already spoken to my youngest sister who was so sweet. She responded to my mom saying,
"I think Heavenly Father Prepared me for this."
In her mind, it was no big deal. She is a huge fan of Adam Lambert (gay American Idol contestant) and always stuck up for him despite the remarks against his gayness. She saw through that to his talent and didn't let prejudice blind her to the whole person.

Since coming out to my family, we actually did grow together in a lot of ways. We became more open with one another. We started talking about the important problems we face instead of always keeping conversations light and surface-level. We started discussing religion, God, why we believed, what we believed... it was actually a true blue blessing to the family. Weird. It caused them to reevaluate why they believed and maybe even articulate what they believed, but it really made us stronger I think.

Me being gay isn't even an "issue" anymore. I am treated just like my straight siblings. My boyfriend is welcome just like my sister's boyfriend is welcome. They really make it so easy and enjoyable to be fully involved in the family. It is so wonderful! And I think it is the most ideal situation. It is not common by any stretch of the imagination. The church teaches that you shouldn't allow your gay children bring home their significant other... or if you do, to put severe limitations on them and treat them completely different from your straight children. But I have found that it is so much more healthy to be able to stay involved in my family's life. I love that I can come home for Christmas and Thanksgiving and have my significant other come home too. I love that he is treated just like a member of the family and that we can feel completely comfortable. It builds a much healthier relationship than one where families on both sides don't want to have anything to do with the couple. Family is important. And I love mine dearly.

14 December 2010

THT: Ignorance Is Bliss

Why is it so hard for so many LDS people to consider that gay people don't choose to be gay or that perhaps they have valid arguments? Why do they accept sketchy logic to give them reason to ban gay marriage? I've often wondered why it is SO hard and SO uncomfortable even for close friends to talk about and think about the morality of homosexuality. My mom helped me realize what I think is a huge reason.

When I, (a gay individual), ask for an active LDS person to understand, I am asking much more than that. It isn't my intention, but in the other person's mind, I am asking them to question the prophets, question their beliefs, question the position of the church on this issue. That is no small order. It is scary. It is huge and overwhelming. No wonder so many don't want to hear about it or talk about it.

Although I think it is sad and unfortunate that something like this would rock the foundations of their testimonies, I can understand. I was there once. But now I realize that my testimony isn't built on any man or institution... both of which will always be imperfect in this mortal existence. My testimony is built on Christ. So a question I pose that might challenge something a prophet has said has no effect on my testimony of Christ and his gospel. Today, however, most of us go to church and open our skulls to have "truth" dictated to us and poured into our heads. We don't question, we don't challenge. If it is in the lesson, it must be truth. I think this is a sad sad reality. "All is Well in Zion." Don't doubt or question anything that is said or done because "all is well."

So yes, on the one hand, I understand why people don't want to understand the plight of individuals like me. But on the other hand, I don't agree that it should be that way. I don't agree that this issue has to challenge anyone's testimony or cause them to choose between the gospel or this issue. Unfortunately, that's what the majority of people in the church feel they must do... so continued ignorance will bring continued bliss until it becomes too late. One day people might understand... but they will have regrets for the harm they've caused due to their love of ignorance and their fear of questioning. The idea that questioning leads to a loss of testimony is not doctrinally based and ignorance has never been preached by Christ.

12 December 2010

THT: Heaven

I'm sure everyone has been told they are going to hell at one time or another. But did you believe it? In High School I was told I was going to hell because I was Mormon. In Church I was made to feel I was going to hell because I was gay. I didn't believe the first, but I sure did believe the second for quite awhile. Nothing I could do would make up for that wretched piece of me that I just couldn't make disappear. No number of hours spent talking to people about the gospel. No amount of good deeds. No amount of A pluses or service. Try as I might, nothing could alter the reality I accepted which told me I was going to hell.

I don't believe that anymore. I don't let anyone inform me on where I am going due to my being Mormon or my being gay, or any other reason someone might construct for justifying such a judgment. I am a good person who is trying to do the best he can with what he has and accepts that he falls short. In those places I fall short, I put my trust and faith in Christ to make up for what I lack. When I look around at my friends (all of whom are imperfect, many of whom are gay) I know that we are not going to be consigned to hell. They are some of the best, caring, hard-working, non-judgmental people I know. And if hell is where the gays go, I will be in such great company. And if heaven is where all those people who are condemning me to hell are going to be... I won't shed a tear for not being able to be there.

But I'm not going to hell. And I'm so glad that I can finally believe that.

10 December 2010

PE: I Wanna Hold Your Hand

First off, if you haven't heard Glee's I Wanna Hold Your Hand, its a good one. I wanted to share an experience I had a few months ago. I was in California with my significant other and a couple friends. He goes to school there. Anyway, they have a local farmer's market every week where basically the whole town shows up that we all decided to go to. Both of us are very comfortable with ourselves and, well, we felt like holding hands as we walked around... so we did. We weren't doing it to make anyone uncomfortable... we weren't making a show out of it. Actually, we tried to be as discrete about it as possible. You wouldn't know it though.
When someone realized we were holding hands, they'd tell the people they were with and everyone would stare, laugh, or make remarks. "That's disgusting." "That's so wrong." I noticed it at first, but then I just shut it out and just focused on enjoying time with him. Our two friends (a guy and girl) were behind us a ways and apparently they heard and saw a lot worse. I guess most people at least wait until they are out of range to make their comments or gestures. My friends were actually having a conversation about what they would do if someone decided to get violent. They must have been seeing and and hearing a lot worse reactions than I picked up on.

If you are straight, please imagine what that would be like. We were just holding hands. Imagine that every time you went out in public with your significant other, you faced this kind of criticism and hate. So much so that people you cared about sometimes feared for your safety. What would you do? I think most of us would not go out in public. We would meet our significant other in private. Away from the piercing glares that scream of hate. What would happen if you were a young person who only spent time with your romantic interest in private, alone, away from the eyes of any witnesses? Chances are, you'd have a difficult time staying chaste. This is exactly what happens to gay couples. And then society spits on them and calls it the "gay lifestyle" as if these people wanted to live like that. As if they would rather feel like they need to hide and meet in private settings instead of going out on normal dates like everyone else.

I hope for the day when gay couples can go out in public and not feel like they are disgusting in the eyes of people around them. That they would be treated and viewed the same way straight couples are when they go on dates. That no one even bats an eye. The day when, if a guy is on a date with another guy (or girl with girl) and one of them feels the urge to hold the other's hand, and they can muster up the courage to take that step, that they don't have to worry about what everyone else is thinking as an extra roadblock to making that first move. And if I wanna hold his hand, I do it. Why? Not because I want to make anyone uncomfortable, only because I wanna! That should be good enough reason for anyone.

ARG: Will Gays Turn Straight in the Afterlife?

As of recently, church leaders have started to suggest that gayness, like a handicap, will be "fixed" in the next life, and that we should await for that time in faith and righteousness. I'm not sure I believe this. My first argument is against the idea that anyone should be waiting or longing for death to experience love and intimacy. We should strive for those things in our lives here and now. But my other argument is that this idea doesn't seem to me to be inline with our doctrine. In Alma, it states that we are
"raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good; and the other to evil according to his desires of evil."
Alma 41:5
When I read that, regardless of whether my desires to live as a gay man are desires of true happiness or true evil, I will retain those same desires in the next life. My desire to be with a man, that pull, will still be there. Later, in the same chapter (verses 12-13) it reads:
"And now behold, is the meaning of the word restoration to take a thing of a natural state and place it in an unnatural state, or to place it in a state opposite to its nature? O, my son, this is not the case; but the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish—good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful."
 Once again, I feel like these scriptures clearly state that my orientation, which, as Elder Wickman states, is a core characteristic, will not change in the next life. This is regardless of if the reader feels that I am evil in my desires or if they are righteous because either way, righteousness is restored to righteousness and that which is evil is restored to evil.

Furthermore, in D&C 130:2 it states:
"And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there."
What does this mean for our romantic interests? Say I am romantically involved with another man for 40 years until the day I die. If I were turned straight, how could the "same sociality" exist between us in the next life? And even if I never acted on my feelings, say I had a friendship with another gay man where even though we both longed to build a life together, we never did so that we could keep in line with what the church presently teaches. Would that longing to be together in that same way disappear? I think this scripture would argue against that.

Now, there is one question to consider. Say I died before I decided to accept my sexuality (which nearly happened) back when I would have gone to any length to rid myself of my homosexuality. Would God have changed me then? I don't know. If I hated my skin color or my eye color or the language I spoke or that fact that I was left handed (I'm not), would God change me? Ok, granted we don't consider these other things to be sins... anymore. Left-handed people used to be punished and forced to use their right hand in school as children. The prophets of our church used to teach that Blacks were cursed and that it was punishment. But maybe we should look at this another way...

What were the reasons I wanted to become straight? So people wouldn't think I was disgusting. So I wouldn't go to hell. So I could actually want a relationship with a girl. So I could be "normal." So I didn't have to feel ashamed anymore. Are these "desires of happiness, or good?" Or are these "desires of evil?" I guess it depends on if the reader believes there was something wrong in me in the first place. If it is wrong (even though it was by no choice or fault of my own), then maybe they were good desires, but they sure didn't bring any gleam or hint of happiness or hope. Instead those thoughts only led to depression and self-hate which I would argue are far from good, righteous desires. If there is nothing wrong with having these desires, if they are God-given, then it would be evil to seek to reject them. Given my experience in trying to reject it and the resulting thoughts and feelings that came from that, I would say that this fits. Trying to reject it was like slowly killing myself. The longer I forced it away, the more dead I became inside.

So in my opinion, based on the scriptures that I know and read and based on my own experiences with the subject matter, I would argue that no- I will not be turned straight after I am resurrected.

08 December 2010

ARG: Do the Scriptures Condemn Gays?

Simple answer? No. But let me explain. First of all, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine of Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Gospels in the New Testament are completely silent on the issue of homosexuality. We claim the Book of Mormon to be the most correct book. That it was written for us and our time and the volumes of scripture I mention above are the most valued in Mormonism. Why then, are they silent on this issue if indeed homosexuality is the "downfall of society," or the "destruction of the family?" If homosexuality is the reason for the destruction of mankind, why is Christ, why is the Book of Mormon, why is the D&C SILENT about it? Food for thought.

Now, there are a few scriptures that are not in the volumes I addressed above that people take to mean that homosexuality is evil and condemnable. Let's examine them. The bulk of the argument Christians make against gays rests on two basic old testament references. The first is that of Sodom and Gomorrah. The second is the Levitical Code.

Sodom and Gomorrah

The scriptures are not explicit in stating the reason why God destroyed these cities by fire. Many Christians blame the homosexuals (just as they blame gay people today for the reason why society is crumbling and families are being weakened). But what do the scriptures really say? The sins of Sodom and Gomorrah were many. They include rape, bestiality, adultery, idol worshiping, and neglecting the needy. In fact, in Ezekiel, Christ compares Jerusalem to Sodom & Gomorrah, calling it her "younger sister." He then condemns Jerusalem over Sodom and Gomorrah:
"As I live, saith the Lord God, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters. Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good…  but thou hast multiplied thine abominations more than they, and hast justified thy sisters in all thine abominations which thou hast done. Thou also, which hast judged thy sisters, bear thine own shame for thy sins that thou hast committed more abominable than they: they are more righteous than thou: yea, be thou confounded also, and bear thy shame, in that thou hast justified thy sisters." 
Ezekiel 16:48-52
So here, the Lord not only doesn't mention homosexuality (and he never explicitly does), but he is condemning Jerusalem for judging the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Christ is basically saying that Jerusalem has no place to judge when they have a beam in their own eye that is greater than the mote in the eye of their "sister" city. And what explicit sins are stated by the Lord himself that condemn Sodom and Gomorrah? Haughtiness, neglect of the poor and needy, pride, gluttony, idleness. Hmm… could these things be said about the "righteous" members of the church today? Are members today not pointing their fingers at gay people and making them the scapegoat for the downfall of society?

In the New Testament when Christ is instructing his apostles, he says,
"And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city."
Matthew 10:14-15
Once again, Christ is condemning other cities above Sodom and Gomorrah if they reject his apostles. Why does Christ even reference these cities of the old testament? It sounds to me that he references Sodom and Gomorrah because so many people know the story of its destruction and point to that city as being so wicked. So because of this horrible judgement people cast on Sodom and Gomorrah, the Lord gets his message across to the self-appointed "righteous" people by saying, "YOU ARE WORSE! So stop pointing out the sins of those people as if you are better!"

Okay, so lets return to the question of homosexuality and Sodom and Gomorrah. This verse is often referenced to show that it was homosexuality that was the reason for destruction by fire:

For those of you not familiar with this story, angels were sent as men to the city and Lot housed them for the night. When the men of the city saw there were strangers in town, they surrounded Lot's house
"And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them."
Genesis 5:19

So it is clear that homosexual acts must have been present in the city, but it that the sin? It seems clear that these men were there in lust. The old and young came for "fresh meat." It is also obvious that this was in no way going to be consensual. They intended to rape these strangers… possibly even gang rape them. Also, were these men even gay? Committing a homosexual act and being gay are two very different things. If a heterosexual person commits a homosexual act, it is purely out of lust- for the sexual pleasure. If a homosexual person commits a homosexual act, it is possible for it to be an expression of real love. This is because a homosexual person is interested in a fulfilling relationship with another of the same sex just as a heterosexual person seeks a fulfilling relationship with the opposite sex. Once again, the ACT doesn't determine your ORIENTATION.

Okay, enough about Sodom and Gomorrah. You can look into it more for yourself and see if the scriptures ever state that homosexuality was the reason for the city's downfall. It is my belief that that is a false interpretation and that it was made the scapegoat so that we can justify our sins of haughtiness, neglect of the poor and needy, pride, gluttony, and idleness which are sins explicitly stated by the Lord for the reason why the city was destroyed.

The Levitical Code

First off, lets remember that this code was part of the Law of Moses and has been fulfilled and replaced with the higher law. But, if you or others insist on using it for a bases for the idea that homosexuality is condemnable, lets examine it. The scripture referenced to condemn gay people is this:
"Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination."
Leviticus 18:22
What else is an abomination according to the same code? Well, it spends about 15 verses of the same chapter talking about how seeing certain members of your family/extended family naked is an abomination. It also states that the penalty for a child cursing or disobeying his parents is death and the penalty for the daughter of a priest sleeping around is being "burnt with fire." It also states that no man with a blemish (ie "blind, lame, flat nose, broken footed, dwarf, scabbed, etc) will be allowed to offer sacrifice to the Lord. The penalty for blasphemy is being stoned to death.

I could go on, but I wont. My conclusion here is if you are going to use the Levitical code from the Law of Moses to condemn me, you better be killing your child next time he/she disobeys and prevent anyone who has a physical flaw from serving in any callings or capacity that would allow him to sacrifice his time or means for the Lord. You can't extract one verse and apply it and leave the rest as "in the past" and "done away with."

Conclusion

There is no bases for condemning gay people and telling them that if they act on their natural, fundamental, core desires for fulfillment and happiness in this life that they are in any way evil or condemnable before the Lord except for prejudice and ignorance. Even the scriptures that one might use to argue against gays are few and rely on sketchy interpretation of vague language. The tradition that society has built up that gays are in some way disgusting, perverted, or evil is a false one. It is simply because gay people are a minority, they are different from the mainstream, and people don't understand them.

Lastly, did you know that there is a story in the Bible that many scholars believe references a gay man who was called of God, even as he continued in his same-sex relationship?? I will present that story in a later post.

07 December 2010

ARG: Elder Oaks & Elder Wickman on SGA - Part 6

PUBLIC AFFAIRS: You’re saying the Church doesn’t necessarily have a position on ‘nurture or nature’

ELDER OAKS: That’s where our doctrine comes into play. The Church does not have a position on the causes of any of these susceptibilities or inclinations, including those related to same-gender attraction. Those are scientific questions — whether nature or nurture — those are things the Church doesn’t have a position on.

ELDER WICKMAN: Whether it is nature or nurture really begs the important question, and a preoccupation with nature or nurture can, it seems to me, lead someone astray from the principles that Elder Oaks has been describing here. Why somebody has a same-gender attraction… who can say? But what matters is the fact that we know we can control how we behave, and it is behavior which is important.

-----------------------------

ME: First, it would be more accurate to say that the Church no longer has a position. Church Leaders and Church Handbooks of Instruction and several texts and talks written and given by prophets of the past were clear that homosexuality was caused. Due to the irrefutable claims by hundreds of studies that have been conducted since then, however, the Church can no longer say that it is caused by one thing or another. I think this is an important thing to remember. To remember that science and secular knowledge can and does inform church decisions and that the church's stance on homosexuality has indeed changed drastically over the last couple decades. Many members seem to think that scientific discussion and intellectual arguments don't matter in the church. This is not true. While the gospel will never change, the culture in which the gospel is practiced will, and does. So that fact that stance on homosexuality has changed (even within our lifetime) should indicate that this issue is not a part of the unchanging, true doctrine of Christ. It is not an eternal truth like repentance.

Also, I disagree with Wickman that we shouldn't look into what we can find about nature vs. nurture simply because it is too difficult to say at the present. If every person in the history of the world simply refused to look into something because they didn't understand, we'd still be living like cavemen. Nature vs. Nurture wouldn't be relevant at all if the Church didn't claim that God isn't the author of such "confusion." The stance that homosexuality is innately evil starts to fall apart once the possibility that it is in-born comes into play. Therefore, the Church is very smart in claiming a "no stance" policy on the question. That way they aren't attacked by the solid conclusions made by professional studies across the world, but they also don't have to admit that God has made some of his children this way.

Furthermore, I think that this whole question is irrelevant except in the case where someone or some institution is claiming that the reason why it is evil, as they say, is because God doesn't make people who are born as homosexuals. If if it is upon this that their whole argument rests, then yes, it becomes important to prove that it is not learned, but inborn. Since science has been good at proving that, the Church has had to shift the reasoning why homosexuality is evil so that this argument wouldn't fall apart. The new basis for their reasoning, in my opinion, has lots of holes. In fact, I'm not sure where the support for this idea comes from.

Lastly, I STRONGLY disagree with Wickman that "what matters is the fact that we know we can control how we behave." No one is questioning this fact. Of course we control our behavior (except in some few cases). What matters, I would argue, is if living as a gay person, pursuing a relationship with another person of the same sex, is indeed evil. Why should anyone not act on innate feelings if it isn't wrong? Let me explain. It isn't wrong for heterosexuals to pursue the opposite sex, so they don't need to control that behavior. They only need to control behavior when it comes to immoral activities. They don't need to refrain from kissing, holding hands with, or being close to a person of the opposite sex. And once they marry, they don't need to refrain from sexual relations either. Can they control it? YES. Do they need to? NO. So, can gay people control their behavior? YES. Do they need to? And if so, why? On what grounds?

06 December 2010

PE: My Story Part 8- Telling My Family

Okay... where were we. Ah yes, I bought a book about gay LDS people, their friends, families, church leaders, etc. called No More Goodbyes that was on its way to my parents. Yikes. No backing out now. I told my mom that a package was going to be coming in the mail and that no one was to open it until I said so. I'm sure she thought is was some awesome surprise or achievement or recognition of some kind. Her tone was an excited one. If she only knew...

I had a few days to come up with the plan to tell my family while the book was in the mail. I wanted that book to be available right away after I told them. I think a lot of people fear (okay, EVERY LDS gay person I know) telling their families. Sadly, their fears are not unfounded. There is a reason why 40% of homeless kids in Utah are gay. There are too many stories of rejection, families who turn their backs on their loved ones. Parents who "choose the church over their child," which I don't think is necessary. I don't think that accepting and loving your child means you have to reject the gospel at all. I know very few gay lds people who have told their parents. They are too afraid of rejection.

For me, I had decided that if I was going to choose life, I HAD to tell my family. I couldn't go back there and experience what I did the last time. I couldn't go and feel "at home" when comments were going around unknown to my family that they were talking about me. I was prepared for rejection, even for the possibility of not being involved in my family's life for awhile, but I couldn't go on pretending. So this is how I went about executing my plan:

I set a time when my parents and oldest sister could sit down together. (I didn't want my youngest there because I wanted my parents to be the ones to decide if and what they would tell her. She is still growing up and my parents have the right to teach her what they deem appropriate). Then, I would email everyone a question. The reason for this is that I had decided I better let them decide if they'd rather I disappear from their lives as opposed to hear bad news. This is the question I emailed:
Imagine that someone you loved had something to say that would hurt. It would cause you to question your beliefs, rethink your values, and kind of just pull the carpet out from under you. You would probably spend nights awake and hours wiping away tears. You might become angry with yourself, with God, with society. It might cause disagreement and tension in the family. Basically, it would be a very challenging thing to hear.

My question to you is this. Say that this person that you love had two choices. The first is to tell you. The second is to disappear from your life forever. Which one would you choose? Which one would hurt the most? I want all three of you to text me "tell" or "disappear." Do not discuss it with each other. After I have received your answers, I will begin a video chat with all of you.”
When I read this now, it is so obvious that all members of my family would text "tell," and they did. So then we got on Skype. My family on one end, me on the other. I had my friend with me for support- I was so scared. I told them about how I had been going through a really difficult time. They knew I had started taking anti-depressants and that something was up, but they didn't know the real reasons. I told them that it had gotten so bad, I had fully intended to kill myself when I left home last time. This was quite a shock to them and kind of rendered them speechless. I then gave them instructions. I told them I would send an email out to each of them explaining everything. I said that once they finished the email, I didn't want them to call me. I said they could email me any responses or questions they had, but I didn't want them to call until they had read the book that would be coming to the door later that day.

It might sound harsh, but I didn't want a knee-jerk reaction. I wanted to give them all time to think about things and work things out in their minds before we started discussing it. So that's how it went down. From the moment the first response was received to this very minute, I have been amazed by the outpouring of love from everyone in my family.

05 December 2010

THT: Doubt

Yes. I doubt. It might be hard to believe to some people who read this blog. I seem so certain and put together. But just like anyone, I am unsure of things sometimes. I don't want to leave the impression that I am some super-human who has somehow managed to figure everything out and doesn't have a hard day sometimes. I have them. I am unsure of the future. I am unsure if my hands are capable enough to leave to them things of such importance and fragility as love. 

I want to make it clear that just because a person finds a path for their life that they feel peace in, doesn't mean that there aren't going to be trials and difficulties and uncertainties. I mean, at this point, I am not questioning the direction I am taking my life in. But at the same time, this road I am traveling is new to me and it is as if I am afraid to explore a little as I walk, make some mistakes, take some risks. I suppose I am so scared because it has taken me SO long to find this path and it seems reckless to start looking around me for fear I will loose my way. This path I am walking has been amazing. It has brought so much life into me, happiness I never knew I could feel, love I never knew existed.

At the same time however, I wonder if I can really be sure I am on the best path for me if I don't stop and take a look around at my surroundings. Take a little side trail every now and then. Explore what sites there are to see along the way. Take a water break under the shade of a majestic tree I can see in the distance. Perhaps it is just juvenile curiosity. But maybe it isn't juvenile. What if it is vitally important? Doubt. Fear.

It is these times when faith becomes so important. To trust in Christ that if you are doing your best to come unto him that those few steps into the darkness you have to take won't lead you astray and that you will end up in the promised land. Back to one of my favorite Book of Mormon stories. The Jaredites loaded into these sealed vessels off into the deep, tumultuous ocean into the unknown. And although they knew they would be tossed about by winds and waves, they had faith that they would end up in the promised land.

These are times when prayer is important. Prayer is hard for me sometimes. At first, I thought it was ridiculous to pray when I was off on a date with a boy earlier that day. But then I realized that God loves me and I need guidance just like everyone else. So I don't feel uncomfortable praying at all anymore- unless. There is an exception. Sometimes it is still hard for me to imagine that God would want to advise me on my relationships. The notion that gay = evil has been taught to me since I was young, and as someone who struggled with the issue, I paid particular attention. So re-programming doesn't happen over night and I have to remind myself that God is still interested in being involved in my life... in all aspects of it. Why? Because he wants me to be happy.

It is interesting though that I am finally dealing with normal trials and struggles. For so long, the only one in my life was the war I raged against myself over being gay. Now that I have stopped destroying myself, I have regular struggles. Relationships, employment, faith, etc, etc. They aren't exactly a cup of tea, but I suppose I should be grateful for the fact that I am able to deal with other things in my life finally.

Maybe I will learn something at church tomorrow (today) that will help. I'll keep you posted.

03 December 2010

ARG: Family- I Can Have One Too

I want to write something concerning a lie that I believed for a long time before and during the process of coming to terms with my sexuality when I was determining what that was going to mean for me and my life. It is the notion that being gay means you will never have a family of your own. I hear this being the reason why so many gay LDS young men want to marry a woman despite the fact that they are gay. When a friend of mine told her mom that I was gay, she said, "the saddest thing is he will never get to have a family." I believed this once. I couldn't imagine being completely fulfilled living as a gay guy because having kids is something I really want. So I figured I should meet some woman who is just unbelievably awesome and would marry me even though I couldn't love her like she deserved to be loved by a man. And then I thought- how selfish of me. For me to have a happy, fulfilled life, kids are in the picture, but the woman isn't. It would basically be like using her for her ability to bare children. If the girl happened to be sterile, I'm not sure I would ever consider marrying her because the marriage part isn't the thing I see as giving me real happiness and fulfillment. That is selfish. I can't believe I thought like that.

Ok, so lets start with the definition of family (in the dictionary). I'm not going to bore you with what we already know about families. But here are some things to keep in mind:

In most societies it is the principal institution for the socialization of children. One of the primary functions of the family is to produce and reproduce persons, biologically and socially. Think about families of today. Is it really based on physical reproduction? Would you not call a husband and wife who both got remarried to each other after their spouses died, and brought in children from their previous relationships a family? What if they never actually reproduced together? Would they still be a family? Yes. How many moms would the kids have? Two. Dads? Two.

What about parents who are sterile? What if they adopt. They definitely didn't physically reproduce. But they are involved in social reproduction. Are they not a family? What about kids who for one reason or another live with relatives. Their grandparents raise them. Are they not a family? Family takes so many different forms. Why is it that we exclude the type of family I can have?

In all honesty, I don't think God is impressed with the ability of a man and woman to physically reproduce. Any guy and girl could hook up in a drunken daze and do it. The physical part doesn't prove anything about your character or learning and progress about life. I think God is impressed with the way some people choose to go about raising those kids, teaching them, being examples to them, socializing them. This concept of social reproduction is interesting: Social reproduction is a sociological term referring to processes which sustain or perpetuate characteristics of a given social structure or tradition over a period of time.

This brings me to the charge to "multiply and replenish the earth." Could it be that we have misinterpreted what this means? I wonder if God is up there shaking his head- "these kids... all they think about is sex." What if what is meant by multiplying and replenishing the earth is that we are to teach our children and help them to become productive, contributing members of society and of Christ's church? Are we not replenishing the earth with individuals who can act on their own and not be commanded in all things to go forth and be a source of goodness and light to the world? Furthermore, what would you say of the abusive drug attics who had sex during one of their crazy highs and had a kid who they ignored and abused as he/she grew instead of teach and guide? These two people certainly physically reproduced and replenished the earth... so does that mean they fulfilled God's commandment? I don't think so. What have they replenished the earth with? What have they reproduced? Another troubled kid who feels unloved and uncared for? Someone who doesn't have the tools to go forth and make positive contributions?

Obviously physical reproduction is necessary and important. But it isn't everything. There are plenty of cases where that is not possible due to infertility, disabilities, health, etc, etc. So can we say that those couples are not fulfilling the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth? I may not be able to physically reproduce with a male partner, but we can adopt or opt for a surrogate mother. We can also be just as effective as (and most likely more effective than) many heterosexual parents in socially reproducing our children.  Which brings me to an argument against the church's charge against gay marriage, etc.

The church would have me live a celibate life without a partner. It would have me refrain from even dating. They would have me live alone. For the rest of my life. Now, if this life is all about learning and progression, to what extent would I be able to learn and progress living a life like that? On the other hand, say I got married to a man. We adopted children. We raised them and taught them the best we could. We experienced trials together as a family, etc, etc. Now wouldn't that experience be far more beneficial to learning and progression? To learn compromise and loyalty withing a valid, loving relationship? To experience the challenge and joys of raising children? I believe I would be much more likely to learn more of what it must be like to be God in that kind of life than it would a celibate, lonely one.

Many would argue with me citing "The Family: A Proclamation to the World." I ask you to withhold those arguments. I want to address that document in the same kind of fashion I have been addressing the interview with Elder Oaks and Elder Wickman.

Could it be that one of the reasons God saw it fit to allow the existence of gay individuals was to give loving homes to the thousands of kids without homes? To give those kids a chance at life? I don't know. Maybe.

01 December 2010

ART: Who do you think you are?

I love Christina Perri's song Jar of Hearts and the beautiful music video that was produced for it. It became popular after an episode of So You Think You Can Dance where a couple danced to the song. It was due to that episode that dance so heavily influences the music video.
It tells the story of a heartless man-whore who gets girls to fall in love with him only to crush their hearts. He's definitely the villain of this story. But when I listen to these lyrics, I relate it to the situation many people like me (gay LDS people) face. It then becomes, to me, a desperate argument against the society that embraces moral conventions that supports intolerance. Listen to the speaker as he/she desperately addresses society (religion, governments, other social constructs). Sometimes I personify the society as someone like the Pope (who to me, represents both religious and political power) or, specific to the LDS culture, a bishop or stake president, etc.

I think people who feel driven away from the church are often given insult to injury. They go to church and are hurt by things that are done and said to them by members and leaders alike. Then, when they express how they've been hurt, members say, "well, you choose to be offended. There is no good reason for you to leave. People only leave because they want to justify their sins." It becomes the fault of the disaffected member for the treatment they received. And then people wonder why they don't come back:
I know I can't take one more step towards you
Cause all that's waiting is regret
And don't you know I'm not your ghost anymore
You lost the love I loved the most
The last two lines may be interpreted as the speaker saying- "I don't belong to you anymore. The dead ghost that I was in your cruel hands no longer exists! My love was sincere. The deepest love I've felt. And you've lost it." In application to disaffected members, I feel like many of them really did have a true love of the gospel. A lot of people go through a great deal of pain when they realize that they must distance themselves from the church so that they can live some sort of healthy, happy life.
I learned to live half alive
And now you want me one more time
Gay members of the church are asked to and expected to live half a life. They are asked to never express their real love for members of the same sex. They are asked never to hope for a relationship with the person they love. The are asked to live celibate lives and to wait for death to have their natural feelings "fixed" so that they are normal and can then be given permission to be acted upon. They are asked not to associate with others like them (gay individuals). The hope to have a family of their own in this life is taken from them. If this isn't what it means to live half a life- a life without love, I don't know what does.
And who do you think you are
Running 'round leaving scars
Collecting your jar of hearts
And tearing love apart
You're gonna catch a cold
From the ice inside your soul
So don't come back for me
Who do you think you are
I hear you're asking all around
If I am anywhere to be found
But I have grown too strong
To ever fall back in your arms
Watching the church that I grew up in, served in, and preached for tearing the ability for two people who love each other to get married away from them is hard. Who do they think they are? Wasn't agency and freedom of choice the plan of Christ? Was it not Satan who would have us enslaved, forced to act only within the bounds that are set for us?

I think the Church is catching a cold from this icy issue. Individuals, families, wards, and communities are being torn apart by the ways the church has been so involved in the politics of it. For many, this is the last straw, the pain is too much for them and they are shutting the doors. They are telling visitors from their old wards assigned to invite them back- "don't come back." They are gaining the strength to stand up for themselves and maintain their dignity.
And it took so long just to feel alright
Remember how to put back the light in my eyes
I wish I had missed the first time that we kissed
Cause you broke all your promises
And now you're back
You don't get to get me back
It takes a lot of hard work, tears, and spiritual agony to get to a good place after being hurt so badly by people who claim to be acting in the name of Christ. When I found light in my eyes again, when I felt the spirit in be come alive again, it was nothing short of miraculous. I forgot what it was like to feel that. And once I found it, part of me regretted not taking my own path sooner. Some people feel as if they would have been better off if they were never introduced to the church... if they had never tasted the kiss of betrayal by organized religion at all. The promises to share our burdens, mourn with us, and comfort us were broken.
And who do you think you are
Running 'round leaving scars
Collecting your jar of hearts
And tearing love apart
You're gonna catch a cold
From the ice inside your soul
Don't come back for me
Don't come back at all

Who do you think you are?

Who do you think you are?
Who do you think you are?
Who do you think you are?

29 November 2010

THT: A Call to Repentance

Since I have become more and more outspoken about my thoughts and ideas, I have been called to repentance by various people, none of whom have the authority or right to call me to repentance. I have also been written off as one of the tares that need to be rooted out or one of the elect who has been deceived. All these judgments have been made about me by fellow members of the church.

"My disciples, in days of old, sought occasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened. Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin. I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men." 
-D&C 64:8-10                                                 
Before moving on, I must say that I forgive anyone who has sought to judge me. I don't have any bitterness to those that have called me to repentance. Having said that, I feel I should address how I manage to continue to believe, despite the quoted scriptures and judgment I get from the members of the church.
Yesterday an anonymous reader left a comment that was simply a scripture reference. The scripture reads, "And it was the more righteous part of the people who were saved, and it was they who received the prophets and stoned them not; and it was they who had not shed the blood of the saints, who were spared." Apart from the fact that the person who posted this is obviously judging me, calling me unrighteous and damned (not saved), and accusing me of stoning the prophets according to his or her interpretation of this scripture, it was basically an instance of "BoM Bashing" (kind of like Bible bashing).

While this can be great fun, the church does not endorse "bible bashing." Why? Because you can find a scripture to support almost any idea you have and condemn another person while declaring your own righteousness- just as I have demonstrated above. I don't want the person who wrote that comment to feel attacked at all. I really do appreciate everyone who comments, including the author of this one.

Okay, so I hope you can see the approach I take to comments like these. This approach comes from a more foundational belief I have about the difference between the gospel and the church, one that was articulated in general conference in 1984 in a talk given by Elder Poelman and has helped me in my continued belief in the gospel.

The Church and the Gospel, are two entirely different things. The Gospel is the doctrine taught by Christ. Who's gospel is it? Christ's. Not Thomas S. Monson's, not Joseph Smith's, not your religion professor's. It is Christ's gospel. Everything else is an appendage to the doctrine of Christ.

The Church is the organization that acts as a catalyst to promote that gospel and provides the space and structure within which the gospel can be taught and lived. It includes the leadership, the for-profit businesses of the church, the members, and basically everything else you can imagine that is not the doctrine taught by Christ. In summary, the church is the culture in which we presently function within as members. Let's recap:
The Gospel = Doctrine (teachings) of Christ
The Church = Culture
We get these two mixed up all the time in the church. How many times have you heard someone bare their testimony and say, "I know the church is true." Can a culture be "true?" Is there such thing as the only true culture? People also often say something like, "I don't know where I'd be without the church in my life, it scares me to even think about it." Really? So if the church was taken away from you, the doctrine with which you guide your life with would disappear also? What about the countries of the world were "the church" hasn't been established but "the gospel" has been preached to and received by people in that same country? What we really mean, I believe, is that we don't know how we would navigate our lives without the guidance that Christ has given us through his teachings.

Okay, so you can see how we confuse the two. People all are on all different parts of the spectrum with how they incorporate the two into their lives. Often what happens is that people are so wrapped up in the culture (enrichment, scouts, mutual, home (and visit) teaching, FHE, etc, etc) that they start letting the culture inform the doctrine. We interpret the doctrine through the eye of the culture that surrounds it. But, we've already established that a culture cannot be true. I guarantee that the culture was extremely different in the early days of the church from what the church is now. Does it make the doctrine (Christ's gospel) any less true? No. So filtering the gospel through the eyes of the present culture invariably leads to problems.

I am on the other end of the spectrum. I let the gospel (the core teachings of Christ) inform the culture that I function within. Obviously, this is the correct method in my opinion. So when something is said or scriptures are cited by someone or actions are taken against me, I don't let those things inform the doctrine of Christ that I believe. I try and see everything (including the words of prophets) through the lens of the gospel while keeping in mind the culture within which the interpretations are made and the words are being said. Sometimes the culture is so offensive that I cannot feel a connection with Christ and his teachings in the physical organized church. It is hard to focus on things like love and forgiveness when you are sitting in the midst of judgmental people who tell you to your face that you will not be saved. So often, I choose not to subject myself to that culture. But I do fully embrace the gospel.

There are so many misinterpretations and misguided beliefs that result from the mixing of the Church and the Gospel. Here is one, and it helps explain how I maintain my identity as a Mormon and believer even when prophets are sometimes the reason for my reluctance to subject myself to the culture (which I wrote a little about in this post):

The doctrine of Christ clearly teaches us that prophets are imperfect. They make mistakes. Open the scriptures if you doubt this. There are many accounts of prophets making mistakes, and not just little ones. Some of them are huge. The culture, that is the church, is organized in such a way that we don't question our leaders. Imagine sitting in Sunday School and the Bishop makes a comment that really just rubs you wrong. Do you raise your hand and confront him? No. And if you did, surely you would be called out and maybe even be told that you are driving the spirit away. We don't question authority in the church. So this is our culture. Then we take a scripture (doctrine) and look at it through the eyes of our culture and condemn the person who disagrees with a leader's words. We accuse people who disagree of being like those who stoned the prophets, damned to hell. And yet Christ's doctrine is clear in its call for everyone to ponder and pray about the truth of any words spoken to us that are put forth as true.

Even when he visited the Nephites and taught them and established the gospel among them, he asked them to go and ponder and pray to God about what had been taught. Do we do that? Do we go through conference talks and really ponder and pray about the things that are said? Or do we simply accept it as truth even as we nod off during the one time we listen to it? And then what right do any of us have to condemn someone else who has pondered and prayed and studied the message and finds that he/she disagrees with a point or two?

The Church (member, leaders, activities, organizations, auxiliaries and the way all these things interact... the culture) is heavily influenced by it's time, environment, and the circumstances surrounding it. The cultural biases and prejudices of today make even the word "gay" wrong in today's church. However, ALL people necessarily have limited understanding and experience (including prophets) and therefore their concepts of what is good and true are fallible. Each person can only envision a part of our shared reality. Such partiality, when presented as the totality, can severely limit the lives who embrace it as truth.

Even apostle's words must be read and understood in context and must then be evaluated in terms of those limitations. No person's portrayal of common truth and collective good can be allowed to stand unexamined and unquestioned.

"You must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me [the Lord] if it be right." God doesn't ask us to simply accept things as truth and follow blindly. "For he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward."


I am so bad at keeping my posts at a reasonable length. Sorry readers.